Posted by on January 31, 2017

I was a speaker at the English week in Vannes where students attended i.e. 2nd year students in

  • DUT STID (Statistique et Informatique Décisionnelle / Statistics and Business Intelligence)
  • DUT GEA (Gestion des Entreprises et des Administration /Business Administration)
  • DUT Informatique / Computing

Four of us were interviewed. The idea of this event was to share our experience in learning a foreign language.

Here is a summary of my advises to learn a foreign language.

Learning a foreign language

My tips to practice English for IUT of Vannes students:

  • If you plan to go abroad, don’t wait for the idea destination. Start small but start now. You will have other opportunities to travel in your life.
  • Two years ago I was said: ‘plan your reward before reaching your goal’. You will be graduated in a few months. What will be your reward? Have you though about going to England?
  • Apps Duolingo for true beginners: this apps is free and very intuitive. You do a little bit every day (between 5 and 30 minutes). Perseverance is key. With this apps you can learn other languages like German and Spanish. But the thing is that you will have a brighter range of options if you speak English here. Indeed, if you select the English environment of Duolingo, you have many more languages like Russian, Turkish and so on. Here is another Apps you can look into if you want to learn Swedish (IOS, Android).
  • Watch TED videos (Ideas worth spreading) (18 minutes videos) e.g. How to learn any language in 6 months
  • Kindle books on Amazon : you can select a word and see its definition.
  • Meet English native speakers: have a look into local groups e.g. euromayenne.org
  • Play some films on YouTube to get your ear familiar with the intonation.
  • Identify the kind of TV programs you like watching in your mother language and search for similar ones in English. For examples, I like business related programs and so I search for words like “property”, “Dragon’s Den” or documentaries on country specific business successes (in Germany I would look for Aldi brothers, C&A, Adidas, Siemens, Haribo, VW, Audi and so on).
  • Identify local celebrities for who you have empathy. If you don’t know where to look for, then look at the top 10 most appreciated persons in the country. Then follow their activities on social medias, watch their interview and so on.

Learning a foreign language is like learning to play an instrument. Once you manage one language, learning the next one is easier because you know what words are essential for you, you can figure out/visualize when you are gonna need them.

Each time you learn a new language, you open up new doors. You discover the culture attached to it. Through that, you realize that some of your beliefs are cultural and can start asking yourself whether you agree on them or no.

Learning Methods

Generally speaking when you want to learn something, one solution is to become the teacher. It forces you to write down with your own words what is clear to you. It forces you to give a structure to the material and to investigate any gap.

You may also want to read this post talking about the teaching curve : https://www.edutopia.org/blog/the-curse-of-knowledge-chris-reddy

  1. Add emotions via stories… in the course
  2. Multi-censorial lessons : even though we all have methods to learn quickly (hearing, writing, testing, etc.), a combination of methods is more productive
  3. Have several contacts to the content at different time points : every hours, every days, every weeks (learning cycle)
  4. Connect the content with a story
  5. Create mental connections : use analogies to present similar processes (which give different results) ; use examples.
  6. Bring novelty : have you never been motivated/excited when you were about to start something new?
  7. First recall some background knowledge you can build up on to it.

You can also read this book from Kay Peterson and David A. Kolb: How You Learn is How You Live : Using Nine Ways of Learning to Transform Your Life

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